Introduction to yoga and epilepsy

  • October 15, 2020
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Yoga is becoming incredibly popular – almost 37 million people in the United States say they regularly step onto the mat. Some people believe that doing yoga can help with controlling epileptic seizures too. What do we know about yoga and epilepsy, and how can you begin?

What is yoga?

Yoga is a spiritual practice which has been followed for thousands of years in India as part of the Hindu religion. In the US, we most often think about yoga as a stretching activity done in classes. However, yoga also includes a variety of breathing and meditation exercises too.

Yoga and epilepsy seizure control: what the science says

You may have heard that yoga can help with seizure control. Now, while there is evidence that yoga reduces stress (among other benefits), we do not know for sure if it directly helps with controlling seizures.

A small number of studies have researched yoga and epilepsy, and the evidence suggests that certain kinds of yoga practice could help with seizure control. That said, much more research needs to be done before we know for sure whether it helps or not.

Perhaps more important than anything, one study of people with epilepsy found that they felt their quality of life improved a lot when they started doing yoga.

Yoga and epilepsy – potential benefits

While the stretches, breathing and meditation involved in yoga may not directly reduce epileptic seizures, it might help in other ways:

  • Yoga is known to help reduce stress

Many people with epilepsy say stress is one of the major triggers of their seizures. If yoga makes you feel less stressed, that could reduce seizure frequency.

  • Yoga is a form of exercise

Practicing yoga stretches helps with strength and all-round fitness. And, doing exercise can also aid seizure control because it helps us sleep better, reduces stress and helps manage other health conditions too.

  • One of the safest forms of exercise

While you should always consult with your physician before taking up a new sport, yoga stretches are a low risk activity for people with epilepsy. You are often close to the ground (which makes falls from seizures less dangerous) and you will be moving slowly which means there is a relatively low chance of injury.

Epilepsy and yoga: where to begin

If you are interested in trying out yoga, it is always sensible to speak with your physician about taking up a new exercise. 

There are then many ways you can begin:

  •  Attend yoga classes at your local yoga studio (you may want to let the instructor know you have seizures)
  • Follow yoga videos online – there are millions of yoga videos for every level on the internet
  • Try downloading ‘mindfulness’ apps which might help with meditation for epilepsy

Whether you are performing a ‘downward dog’, a ‘child’s pose’ or are simply doing breathing exercises for meditation and seizures, yoga can be a great activity to help you get fit, feel better in yourself and reduce feelings of stress.  

As yoga instructors say at the end of their classes: Namaste!

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